I was an odd awkward child, an army brat dropped into new schools as regularly as other kids get new shoes or longer jeans. To defend myself, I made a virtue out of abnormality. I shaped my difference into a cool kind of elitism – my way of making lemonade out of sour grapes. And it worked! For a long time I felt safeguarded, sustained and rewarded by my elegant design. There was only one drawback, I always felt a little fraudulent –as if I were perpetuating a lie at the same time as I was being fooled. I knew in my heart of hearts that I’d built my defense on an unstable foundation of fear, resentment and loneliness.
Finding a loving partner helped, becoming a mother helped, but I still felt like I walked the world encased in glass, through which I could see, smell, taste and feel others and myself, but never really, really touch. The Women’s Movement of the 1960’s and 70’s shattered the glass. For the first time I belonged, by virtue of being female. This was a place where difference and eccentricity were valued. The movement gave me a political view that jived with my own. I learned “the personal is political” and stopped feeling crazy for thinking the emperor wore no clothes. It introduced me into a community of wise, caring accepting individuals who expected me to engage and participate. Best of all it fulfilled my longing for meaningful spirituality in the form of the feminine divine. One by one the thousand cuts my heart and soul had sustained began to heal.
Of course I am speaking retrospectively, with the advantage of hindsight. It took the rest of my life and many other milestones to reclaim myself, face my fears, and own my stuff – all the hard work of living a life of conscious engagement. Along the way I never lost my fascination with what was normal because the hardest thing to relinquish was my internal ranking system which measured me against all comers in regards to look, smarts, aplomb, sophistication, etc.
The desire to prioritize hierarchically is probably hardwired in animals. Happily women are less vertically and more horizontally inclined! We like to nest, create relationships spread our roots across the landscape underground like aspen trees, connecting and connecting. Learning to build relationships based on mutual vested interests in health, well-being and sustainable friendship gradually dissolved my inclination to judge myself and others.
Over time, the practice of introspection and compassion taught me that I carry within myself every impulse and condition known to humankind. Just because I don’t act on all of them doesn’t mean they aren’t there. This insight destroyed any remaining vestiges of belief that I wasn’t an integral part of humanity and by extension life on Earth and by extension the universe. Further contemplation led me to think of my psyche as a Möbius strip – a constant flowing continuum of impulse, thought, emotion that can, at any time, assume any configuration.
The only abnormality I ever suffered from was the delusion that I could somehow stand outside my own humanity. Sitting in circle with women allowed me to see myself – all my foibles, flaws, beauty and wisdom – reflected in the faces of others. My community freed me because it gave me time. It accepted me until I could accept myself. This is why I embedded Dr. Gabor Mate’s interview. Why I think his words wise and important to hear. Why I want to support the documentary Crazywise is making. I believe in crazy wisdom.